Jimmy Butler reveals Pat Riley was willing to unretire Michael Jordan’s No. 23 and let him wear it with Miami Heat

3 Min Read

Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler has donned three different jersey numbers throughout his NBA career, including No. 23 with two separate organizations. The Heat franchise retired that number in honor of Michael Jordan, but it seems Pat Riley was willing to let Butler have it when he came to Miami.

The veteran declined the offer.

“You can’t wear 23 here because of M.J.,” Butler said in reference to the Heat organization. “Literally, Pat Riley retired it. But I will say this: Whenever I did come here, Pat told me that I could wear 23, but I said no.”

It’s quite uncommon to see an NBA team retire the jersey number of an opposing player, let alone someone who eliminated the organization from the playoffs multiple times. However, Riley went against the norm by hanging Jordan’s No. 23 from the rafters as a tribute to the legendary shooting guard in 2003.

The Heat’s move was actually the first time for any NBA organization to retire the jersey of a player who never played for that squad. The Dallas Mavericks did a similar gesture in 2020 by retiring Kobe Bryant’s No. 24 to honor the late Los Angeles Lakers icon. Additionally, last year, the league retired Bill Russell’s No. 6 throughout the NBA.

Interestingly for Miami, the franchise saw a six-year stretch when Jordan’s number was the only one hanging from its rafters. It wasn’t until 2009 when the Heat finally retired a former player’s jersey: Alonzo Mourning’s No. 33. Since then, the organization has also retired Chris Bosh’s No. 1, Dwyane Wade’s No. 3, Tim Hardaway’s No. 10 and Shaquille O’Neal’s No. 32.

Udonis Haslem’s No. 40 is expected to be up there in the rafters sometime in the future, too. Butler may also have a case to join the ranks of all-time Heat greats, especially with his performance in this year’s playoffs.

The six-time All-Star has led the Heat to the Eastern Conference Finals, helping the squad get out of the play-in tournament before starting its magical run.

In the first round of the playoffs, Butler’s 37.6 points per game and 59.7 percent shooting from the field were instrumental in the Heat’s beatdown of the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks. Miami took care of business in the second round by defeating the New York Knicks in six contests.

Only time will tell how far the 6-foot-7 superstar takes the Heat. But with the way he and the team are playing, it wouldn’t be surprising to watch them advance all the way to the Finals.

Share This Article
Orel writes all day, everyday. During the day, he writes and does research to complete his master's degree in education. During the night, he writes about the league he has loved since the '90s: the NBA.